Salon boss who smuggled £1.5m of cocaine is ordered to repay just £41

Beauty salon boss, 33, who enjoyed round-the-world party girl lifestyle before being jailed for smuggling £1.5m of cocaine is ordered to repay just £41

  • Stephanie Nelson was pregnant when police stopped her at the Dartford Tunnel
  • Officers found 15kg of high purity cocaine stored in her Hyundai in June 2019
  • The 32-year-old beauty salon boss with a party lifestyle gave birth behind bars 
  • Prosecutors initially alleged she had earned £700,000 from the drug scheme 
  • This was reduced to £10,000, but a court ordered that she only pay £41 

A beauty salon boss who enjoyed a round-the-world party girl lifestyle before being jailed for smuggling £1.5million worth of cocaine has been told she only needs to repay £41.

Stephanie Nelson, 32, was four months pregnant when a Kent Police officer stopped her Hyundai iX35 at the Dartford Tunnel in June last year.

The officer discovered a hidden, magnetised compartment in the boot which was storing 15kg of high purity cocaine.

A month later she was jailed for 10 years and later gave birth to her baby behind bars, as prosecutors alleged she made almost £700,000 from her involvement in the smuggling plot. 

Nelson claimed she was paid nothing for her role as drugs courier, while her sentence was reduced to eight years and three months on appeal in May this year.

Prosecutors eventually settled on £10,000 as the figure she earned for her role in the scheme, but this week a court has ordered she pay just £41.05 – the amount of money she had on her when she was arrested.

Stephanie Nelson, 32, enjoyed a luxury lifestyle on expensive yachts in the Mediterranean –  but her jet-setting lifestyle came to a halt when she was jailed for smuggling cocaine last year

£1.5million worth of cocaine was found in stowed away in Nelson’s Hyundai at the Dartford Crossing. A court has heard she earned around £10,000 from the scheme, after prosecutors originally estimated it was closer to £700,000

She was temporarily released with her child under Covid-19 procedures and returned to her home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, where she lived with her seven-year-old son before being jailed.

Nelson gave birth to her daughter behind bars following her conviction. A court has now ordered her to pay £41 for her part in a £1.5million drug smuggling operation

Following some debate over Nelson’s benefit from the drug smuggling operation, a confiscation proceedings heard yesterday her ill-gotten gains totalled a much more meagre £10,000. 

As her available assets were said to amount to just the £41.05 taken from her on arrest, she was simply ordered to pay that paltry sum within 28 days, or serve a further 14 days behind bars in default.

At the time she was jailed in July last year, she ran Cheshire-based Porsche Cosmetics Ltd and her social media accounts were full of photos depicting exotic holidays in the Far East, expensive hotels and yacht-sailing on the Med.

Others showed her enjoying nights out at top restaurants in Marbella, Spain, including celebrity favourite NOBU and Olivia’s La Cala, owned by ex-TOWIE star Elliott Wright.

The images were captioned ‘#partyhard #chillinglikeavillain #goodvibesonly’. 

Prior to her conviction, Nelson’s social media accounts were full of photos depicting exotic holidays in the Far East, expensive hotels and yacht-sailing on the Med

At a previous hearing, the prosecution had assessed her financial benefit to be approximately £692,000, with available assets of a car worth just over £4,500.

Her legal team however argued she had not been paid a penny, and investigators were given time to look into her financial affairs.

Prosecutor Tom Nicholson told Judge David Griffith-Jones QC yesterday that it was now accepted she was paid the much lower figure of £10,000, as ‘reflected’ in her bank statements. 

No mention was made of the car.

On making the repayment order under the Proceeds of Crime Act, Judge Griffith-Jones congratulated the prosecution and defence on taking ‘a realistic approach and compromising where appropriate’.

Nelson appeared at the hearing via video link with Styal Prison in Wilmslow, Cheshire – her hometown.

The former nursing degree student had been jailed at the same court alongside her co-defendant John Markham.

The cocaine was hidden in a ‘sophisticated and magnetised’ void in the boot, having been given to her by John Markham outside a pub in Bearsted, Kent 

The 54-year-old was also sentenced to 10 years but had his prison term subsequently reduced to nine years on appeal.

The dad of three had been responsible for handing the cocaine of 83% purity and stamped ‘Premium 20/20’ over to Nelson in two holdalls in the car park of The Yeoman pub in Ashford Road, Bearsted, Kent.

It was initially claimed by his defence team he was paid just £106 for the drop-off but at his confiscation hearing it was agreed his actual benefit was £500,522.

Police say Nelson was also found carrying a BQ Aquaris encrypted phone described as ‘highly sophisticated and virtually impossible’ to crack, when she was stopped in Dartford last year 

However, he was only ordered to repay £3,231 – the value of his vehicle – his only asset – already in the hands of the National Crime Agency. 

Markham, of Haileybury Avenue, Enfield, Middlesex, was given three months to pay or serve three months in default.

The pair were arrested after police swooped on Nelson’s Hyundai car as she drove north through the Dartford Tunnel river crossing shortly before 7pm on June 10 last year.

Markham was ordered to pay £3,231 for his part in the £1.5million drug smuggling plot

The holdalls containing the cocaine were found inside a ‘sophisticated and magnetised’ void in the boot, having been given to her by Markham from his van just 20 minutes earlier while under police surveillance.

She was also in possession of a BQ Aquaris encrypted phone described as ‘highly sophisticated and virtually impossible’ to crack.

Christopher Martin, defending Nelson, said she had neither looked in the bags nor knew of their contents.

He added she was the victim of a ‘controlling and physically abusive’ ex-partner, who had ‘persuaded her to collect something’ on his behalf.

But on sentencing Judge Philip Statman said there was ‘very little evidence of recent pressure or coercion’.

He told the beauty therapist she had embarked on ‘a deliberate course of conduct for financial gain’ which had to be marked by a substantial prison sentence despite the profound impact on both her son and then unborn child. 

Nelson was said to have set up her aesthetics practice in February 2018 after completing two years of her medical degree.

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